ESAs Venus Express has returned the first-ever images of the hothouse planet’s south pole from a distance of 206 452 kilometres, showing surprisingly clear structures and unexpected detail. The images were taken 12 April during the spacecraft’s initial capture orbit after successful arrival on 11 April 2006.
Engineers have lost no time in switching on several of the instruments and yesterday the VMC (Venus Monitoring Camera) and VIRTIS (Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer) imaged, for the first time in space history, the southern hemisphere of Venus as the spacecraft passed below the planet in an elliptical arc.
Scientists are especially intrigued by the dark vortex shown almost directly over the south pole, a previously suspected but until now unconfirmed structure that corresponds to a similar cloud structure over the north pole. “Just one day after arrival, we are already experiencing the hot, dynamic environment of Venus,” said Dr Hakan Svedhem, Venus Express project scientist. “We will see much more detail at an unprecedented level as we get over 100 times better resolution as we get closer to Venus, and we expect to see these spiral structures evolve very quickly.”
Jocelyne Landeau-Constantin | alfa
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